The Oxford Philomusica, based in Oxford, England, is an orchestra. It was launched with a concert at London's Barbican Centre in November 1998 and made its Oxford debut the following February at the Sheldonian Theatre. Since then it has become, in the words of the local Oxford Times newspaper, ‘a musical resource for the city and beyond’, attracting critical praise and securing a loyal and growing audience.
The Oxford Philomusica presents a comprehensive season of concerts in Oxford throughout the year, performing mostly at Christopher Wren’s Sheldonian Theatre, part of Oxford University. In October 2002, it became the first-ever Orchestra in Residence at the University of Oxford. As part of the University Residency, the orchestra collaborates with the University of Oxford Faculty of Music in educational programmes for the benefit of the student community.
The Oxford Philomusica has been acknowledged by the Association of British Orchestras as ‘the country’s fastest growing professional symphony orchestra’ and recognised in an Arts Council report as ‘filling an identifiable regional need’.
Since its inception, the orchestra has attracted number of important supporters. Vladimir Ashkenazy, Patron of Oxford Philomusica, first appeared with the orchestra in February 2001 as soloist and conductor and has been a regular visitor ever since. Other international artists who have appeared with the orchestra include Steven Isserlis, Angela Hewitt, Cristina Ortiz, Maurice Hasson, Jean-Bernard Pommier, Igor Oistrakh, Charles Rosen, John Lill, Chloë Hanslip, Simon Preston, Peter Donohoe, Nikolai Demidenko, John Rutter, Rosalind Plowright, Nicola Benedetti, and Julian Lloyd Webber.
In this season alone the Orchestra is collaborating with musicians such as András Schiff, Maxim Vengerov, Valery Gergiev, Ann-Sophie Mutter, Stephen Kovacevich, Nigel Kennedy and Menahem Pressler.
Oxford Philomusica has frequently appeared in the presence of the British royal family, including HRH The Prince of Wales and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, and has also established an annual fund-raising event in the Palace of Westminster with a concert in the House of Commons and a dinner in the House of Lords. In April 2002, the orchestra was honoured at a reception at 10 Downing Street. The orchestra has also established an annual Fundraising Concert and Dinner held in the Hamlyn Hall of the Royal Opera House and in May 2012 this event became a Royal Gala in the presence of Oxford Philomusica’s Royal Patron, HRH Princess Alexandra.
The Orchestra has extended its touring programme to other parts of the United Kingdom, including the Barbican and Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. In 2006 Oxford Philomusica made its debut at the Cadogan Hall in London and in 2008 this was the venue for a performance of Haydn's Creation. The orchestra's 2008 recording of The Creation with the Choir of New College, Oxford, was CD of the Month in BBC Music Magazine.
In August 1999, the orchestra inaugurated the first major Oxford International Piano Festival to be held in the City. It was described by the Oxford Times as ‘the most significant annual musical event in the city’. The Piano Festival has become an annual feature in the orchestra’s calendar, earning an international reputation for the quality of the teaching and masterclass opportunities it offers the young musicians. The 2005 Festival was the subject of an article in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune (‘Oxford's masterclasses turn piano lessons into performance art’). The 2012 Piano Festival Faculty includes: Sergei Babayan, Christopher Glynn, Andreas Haefliger, Ruth Harte, Joan Havill, Niel Immelman, Diana Ketler, Alexander Kobrin, Haochen Zhang, John Lill, Menahem Pressler, Tessa Nicholson, as well as the orchestra’s own Music Director, Marios Papadopoulos.
In 2006, the Orchestra marked the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth with a Mainly Mozart Festival, with twenty seven celebratory concerts. Amongst the Festival's highlights was performance of The Magic Flute, Music Director Marios Papadopoulos' third circumnavigation of the complete cycle of Piano Concertos, and a performance of the Requiem.
In July 2011 the orchestra presented its first Summer Baroque Series, which continues in 2013 with performances from Mahan Esfahani, Nigel Kennedy, Christ Church Cathedral Choir with Stephen Darlington and the Oxford Philomusica Soloists. The Chamber Music Series also continues this year, showcasing what The Times recognised as the Orchestra’s ‘glorious individual players’.
Education and community work is a central part of the orchestra's mission. The Oxford Philomusica won the Oxford Times Charity and Community Award in the Oxfordshire Business Awards 2007 in recognition of its work in the community, including its artistic leadership of the celebrated Blackbird Leys Choir. It works in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council to provide performance opportunities and tuition to the hundreds of talented young musicians in the area. In 2011 the orchestra joined forces with Oxfordshire County Music Service to present the first of an annual Concerto Competition which aims to showcase and reward the young musical talent that exists in Oxfordshire.
Oxford Philomusica has also undertaken an extensive outreach programme in local schools, hospitals, community centres, retirement homes and asylum centres to bring music to areas in the community where access is not normally available. Their work at the Oxfordshire Mental Healthcare NHS Trust, where they developed specialist work at the Park and Highfield Hospitals for disturbed adolescents, was awarded a major grant from Youth Music.
In the last two years Oxford Philomusica has also launched a number of initiatives to encourage diverse audiences of all ages and demographics, and enable young people and families to discover and enjoy classical music. Particular schemes include 'children for £1' tickets at chosen child-friendly concerts, and a FUNomusica family concert series presented by Alasdair Malloy.
Beyond Oxford, the orchestra is rapidly developing a national and international profile with regular appearances in London and a regional and international touring programme. Countries visited to date include France, Switzerland, Greece, Denmark, Belgium, Cyprus and Sweden. The orchestra is rapidly developing a national and international profile with regular appearances in London and a regional and international touring programme. In addition to their comprehensive season of concerts in Oxford, the orchestra is increasingly reaching farther, with residencies at the new Aylesbury Waterside Theatre, and extending into Maidenhead, Reading, Bath, Cheltenham and Bristol.
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